Little was said—with words—during the drive, but there were smiles, affectionate glances, and relaxed touching. In their dreamy state, their worries dissipated as the landscape flew by. What little talk they had included warm references to the night before, each carrying a hint of erotic intimacies to come.
Rounding the southernmost part of the island, Maile noticed a hawk circling high above the road. The ‘io remained visible for many minutes, following them all the way to the black sand beach at Punalu‘u. Gavin, marveling at the scenery, didn’t see it.
Maile parked next to the dark strand of volcanic sand. Above the beach, atop a lava outcrop, stood the ruins of an ancient temple, now marked by a wooden altar upon which recent offerings of fish, fruit, and taro had been laid.
As the couple got out of the Jeep, Maile immediately noticed an old Hawaiian man sitting on the sand in a badly frayed lawn chair. It was Joseph Polehulehu Kai, known to Ka‘u people as “Honu Man,” the Turtle Man. Although Maile often swam at Punalu‘u, she had not seen this elder of her childhood for two years and had assumed he was ailing. Honu Man had always been a keeper of ancient knowledge, particularly about fishing and things of the sea. He was also known to see things before they happened, including several Mauna Loa and Kilauea eruptions. In 1975 seven dolphins swam up to the beach to warn him of an earthquake whose tsunami washed away the village, but he was tending a dying aunt in Hilo and missed the message.
Honu Man sat under a spreading kamani tree near the far end of the beach, watching sea turtles forage among the rocks, his back to the parking lot. As Maile stepped from the Jeep, he abruptly raised his head as if struck by a windblown nut from the tree. He turned and flashed his rusty eyes right at her.